Friend #26: Sarah

The calm and reflection of my time with Josh and Stephanie was countered by creativity and cookies and a little bit of delightful chaos with Sarah.  Sarah is also a friend from LA.  We met when we both signed up on a team to go to Bangkok, Thailand to work with women coming out of prostitution through an organization called NightLight back in January of 2006.  Actually, another member of the team, Tara, also a Facebook friend, lives in Phoenix, but she and I missed each other in Phoenix because Tara was visiting Sarah in Denver.  Did you catch all that?  It was an amazing, life-changing trip for everyone involved.

The team at NightLight go out to the bars in a certain area of Bangkok twice a week and get to know the women over a period of time to build trust.  Eventually, they invite the women to come out of their life in the bars and to get trained in jewelry-making.  The women earn as much making jewelry as they do in the bars, so it’s an entirely alternative income.  It’s a full-time, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job.  The income is salaried, so it’s not based on how many pieces of jewelry they make or sell.  The program is also quite holistic, offering counseling, financial planning, and English classes.  At the time our team went, there were about a dozen women.  The projection for the end of 2006 was that they would have 30 women making jewelry.  They had 30 women by April and about 80 by the end of the year.  Given the opportunity, these women would choose a life outside of the bars, and would do so in droves.  I jump at every opportunity to give this social justice jewelry as gifts.  Actually, great aunt Mary’s 90th birthday present was a NightLight necklace.  Sharing in the adventure and heartbreak and triumph of this trip together with Sarah and Tara and several other of my Facebook friends has provided a deep and strong understanding and bond.  We witnessed each other on the team being helped and changed in the midst of helping others.

Sarah and her husband Stephen had only been married about 10 weeks when we traipsed across the globe.  They were in Los Angeles for awhile then left for the Portland area a few years ago.  Then they moved to Denver just 6 weeks ago.  And Sarah and Stephen have now become Sarah and Stephen and 4-year-old Noel and 2-year-old Sam.  Given the short amount of time the family has been in Denver, they’ve settled in quite nicely.  Both Stephen and Sarah are incredibly talented and creative.  Sarah is a painter and graphic designer (check out her stuff here), and some of her works already decorate the walls.  Stephen works from home as a graphic designer and animator, and I caught them between nap time and an evening barbecue, and in a small gap in a flurry of hosting out-of-town guests.

Sarah and I sat down to coffee and cookies while the kids played dress-up and Stephen worked downstairs.  I’ve kept up with her loosely through mutual friends that we have, and, of course, from Facebook updates.  But it was great to hear from her of their time in Portland, the move to Denver (including a major car breakdown in the middle of the night in the middle-of-nowhere Oregon), and how sometimes a big transition can shake things up so they settle into place better than they ever were before.  That’s how Denver feels to them.  And they’ve launched into knowing neighbors, joining groups, and hosting groups, so they’re already more integrated in Denver than they ever were in Portland.  Again, it was a conversation coming out on the other side of some struggle.  And it’s amazing what a little sunshine and blooming honeysuckle can do to clear away the clouds of discontent.

The kids are delightful–Noel is a spunky diva, the definition of a precocious child.  She and I would have been great friends if I were still 4.  Sam is quieter, and oh so charming.  After we’d been playing for awhile, he asked, “What’s name?”  You would have had to mop up puddle I melted into.  It was easy to enjoin myself into the family for the afternoon.  You can tell how comfortable they are as a family and how they’re used to interacting with people.  We played and read stories.  We worked in the kitchen while Sarah prepared food for the barbecue that evening.  She’s a pretty laid back mom who can easily transition between conversation and parenting.  And knowing her as a newlywed, it was so enjoyable to watch how she’s transitioned and grown into motherhood.  And like many of my visits, it was too short and left me wanting to return very soon.  But what I’ll take away from my time with Sarah is how we’ve each grown a little more into our own skin and learned how to be more comfortable there, inspired and incited by some courageous women on the other side of the globe who were learning to do the same.


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